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Met Life-and Death

A family blames the insurer in a criminal conspiracy suit.
By D Magazine |

IN JUNE 1993, D MAGAZINE published a cover story called “A Murder in the Family,” about the slaying of a Garland woman named Sandy Dial, who was found shot to death in Hunt County in 1991. Though her sister Janet Holley has relentlessly crusaded to put the killers behind bars, no one yet has been charged with the crime. Now, a wrongful death lawsuit filed against one of the nation’s largest insurance companies may shed more light Oil Dial’s murder.

Brought on behalf of Dial’s minor children, the suit accuses New York-based Metropolitan Insurance and Annuity Co. and two employees of entering into a criminal conspiracy by making it possible for a woman named DeEllen Bellah, now living in Rowlett, to obtain a forged $100,000 life insurance policy on Sandy Dial.

The lawsuit alleges that in May 1991, a person claiming to be Sandy Dial called Met Life agent Julie Pinkerton and told her she wanted to obtain a policy that would leave the proceeds to Bellah. But the underwriter for Met Life denied the application, explaining the company couldn’t issue such a policy because Bellah was not a relative and had “no insurable interest.” In order to get their commissions, the suit chums, Pinkerton and her manager told the caller, identified in the suit as Bellah, how to get around the rules: Name a relative as beneficiary. Then when the policy is issued, change the beneficiary to Bellah.

And that’s what happened. After payment of an $18 premium, the policy was issued and the beneficiary changed to Bellah.

Seven months later, Sandy Dial was found dead; court documents accuse “one or more persons including DeEllen Bellah” of the murder.

In 1992, Met Life filed suit against Bellah, contending that she forged Sandy Dial’s name on the life insurance policy as pan of a scheme to profit from Dial’s murder; two years later, a federal court awarded a default judgment to Met Lite because Bellah failed to appear in court, Michael Sa-monek, the attorney lor Dial’s minor children, says that he will be seeking a multi-million dollar judgment and that the names of Bellah and “possibly others” will be added to the lawsuit. (Met Life has filed a general denial in the lawsuit.)

The Dial case raises serious questions about how easy it is to circumvent insurance rules designed to protect the public from such schemes.

“This is very strange, to have agents counseling people on how to break the rules,” says attorney Samonek. ” How many people are walking around with policies on them they know nothing about?”

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